Upholsterer  What They Do

Just the Facts

Upholsterers Career Video

Insider Info

dotUpholsterers cover furniture, fixtures and other items with materials. They install upholstery in aircraft, motor vehicles, railroad cars and marine vessels. They may also repair or refurbish worn-out furniture.

Custom upholsterers give advice to customers about fabrics, patterns and furniture styles, in addition to refurbishing and creating upholstery pieces.

dotUpholstery is also done in furniture factories. In this type of production upholstery, a person usually works on one specific part of the piece of furniture, such as tacking fabric to a chair seat.

This work involves other repetitive tasks such as installing springs, stuffing seats or placing fabric coverings. Custom work is often more creative and rewarding than production work.

dotBoth custom and production upholstery is done on a wide range of household and office furnishings, as well as other pieces. "We work on cars, boats, household furniture, offices -- you name it," says upholsterer Kevin Smeltzer.

dotImagine that your favorite chair has a dip mark in the seat from years of use and has scratches and tears in the fabric. In order to get the chair looking like new, an upholster must follow several steps.

First, the old fabric covering, the springs and the worn padding are removed. The padding and broken springs are replaced. Loose sections of the frame are glued and often the wood is refinished.

Next, the nylon or cotton webbing is installed to hold the springs. Then the springs are attached to the frame and additional stuffing is put in the chair. The upholsterer then measures, cuts and sews a fabric cover. The fabric is sewn, tacked or glued down and ornamental trim and buttons are added.

Some upholsterers even finish up the job by delivering their work to their customer's door.

dotUpholsterers work in a variety of locations. Many are employed in large and small furniture factories. These factories produce furnishings for homes, businesses, hotels, railways, airlines and car manufacturers. Others work in custom upholstery shops or choose to run their own refurbishing and repair shop.

dotUpholsterers use common hand tools: tack hammers, staple guns, tack and staple removers, pliers and shears, for example. They also employ such specialty equipment as webbing stretchers and upholstery needles. Some use sewing machines or do hand sewing.

Upholsterers should have manual dexterity, good coordination and in some cases, the strength to lift heavy furniture. An eye for detail, a flair for color and a creativity with fabric are helpful.

dotWork in production factories can mean shift work. Other shops run regular business hours, Monday to Friday, and sometimes on weekends. Upholsterers who run their own businesses may find they have to work extra hours.

dotMany upholstery shops are spacious, well lit and well ventilated, but some can be small and dusty. Upholsterers stand while they work and do quite a bit of stooping, bending and heavy lifting.

"You've got to have quite a bit of arm strength," says Smeltzer. "And it can be a bit nerve-wracking working with some pieces that require extra care."

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Cover furniture, fixtures and other items with fabric

  • More people are opting to buy new furniture rather than having pieces recovered
  • You can work on a wide range of office and household furniture
  • You'll likely learn through on-the-job training